Cairn Basin to Cloud Cap Saddle
I intended to hike more trail miles today and get to about 4 mi from the truck but adventure called my name and while I did manage to walk almost 12 miles, only about half of them were actual Timberline Trail miles. I started the morning out with a water crossing. Getting down the embankment to the water was much more challenging than the crossing itself…actually, getting down the last 12 feet or so went quite quickly if ya know what I mean. That left bruises.
I was just a short distance from the trail but chose to play and had a little off trail adventure. I went up a reach and then played around in the high meadows before making my way up and down several hills/moraines/rock fields back to the trail. While I had traveled 1.5 miles and about 1000 ft elevation change, I got back on the trail just 500 ft from where I crossed the large Ladd Creek.
I stayed on the main trail just a short distance until Wy’East Basin where there is an unmarked trail going up to Barret Spur. My notes said I could make a loop of it going up here coming down to Dollar Lake. While I had no idea what the Barret Spur was I was on the lookout for adventure today so I figured why not? This was a most excellent choice on my part. The trail gained elevation quickly and the views kept getting better and better.
I maxed out at the saddle at about 7400 ft and was at the foot of the mountain. If I had known about this place I would not have had my earlier adventure and would have just come here. It was amazing. I sat and snacked and watched the rockfalls deposit fresh debris onto the glacier. If you do the loop, I recommend visiting this place.
Really needing to get some actual trail miles in I headed down the ridge and to Dollar Lake which is more like nickel lake now.
Okay NOW I must get some trail miles in. The trail was nice, I had views most of the way and very little time spent in “a green tunnel” (miles of the pct is through such a tunnel). There was a fair amount of down and up but nothing too bad. I had been being warned of the difficult water crossing at Elliot Creek which involved ropes and danger and such. I had read an article that there was a new path being established that would be ready in 2017. Technically the complete circuit of the Timberline Trail is officially closed because of this crossing.
Remember nice guy in the parking lot that told me about Paradise Park? He also told me that the new bypass trail was completed. Seems like no one told all those other counterclockwise hikers I kept crossing paths with, they all took the old trail/rope/danger. When I got to the place where I was to head into danger, there were rocks and logs blocking the danger trail and the new trail was open and cleared and obvious. While it drops down and then you have to climb back out of the valley (about 500 ft loss/gain), the trail was nice and the river crossing easy. If coming from the other direction, hike to Cloud Cap Campground and take the new trail. There was a sign posted there that said they would probably be officially opening it this week.
I had been spending so much time playing around that it was about 6 at this point when I got to the top of the hill. I went around a corner and was very surprised to see cars! and an actual campground! with running water! and it costs $15! This spot was not listed in my notes! The (danger) old trail bypasses this campground, the new one drops you right into it. The next campsite according to my notes was another three miles and another 1500 ft gain. I dug around in my pack and found that I actually had cash so I decided to splurge and stay there. I set up my tent at a large campsite in back basically on the trail in hopes that other hikers could also use my site as they came in and indeed two other solo hikers joined me during the night. The first to come was Ryan and we ended up hiking together the next day and then had beer and food at the Mt. Hood Brewery afterwards. Venessa, the other, had hiked 29 miles starting at the lodge that day and was wrapping up the loop the next morning…she was hard core!
After setting up my tent I went over and met a man and woman who are PCTA volunteers and they were spending the night and then hiking in to clear the trail of the only downed trees I had encountered, a big thanks to those that keep this trail in such good shape!
There are two cool rock building up the road a few hundred feet, both closed to the public. The Cloud Cap Inn was built in 1889 and is now use as a training site/ base camp for search and rescue in the area. I walked out to a rocky outcropping and sat in a flat rock that had been sat on/in that it had a deep butt impression just perfect for sitting. I cooked and ate dinner and drank some bourbon (from my new titanium flask!) before heading down to the tent for bed.